If you’re one to believe butlers and manservants in films are background characters, meant to blend in with the wallpaper (of course, except when they’re the culprits in murder mysteries), and little else, well… prepare to have that trope deconstructed. The Servant is a British film, in damn near every way, so if you’re going to give it a try, get yourself ready for that particular style of movie. I’ve made mention before how I don’t particularly care for films that make their entertainment value out of uncomfortable or awkward situations, and this one definitely qualifies, but I couldn’t help but be highly impressed by what this had to offer, and the way it offered it.
The ‘servant’ in question is Barrett, who in the opening is interviewed and accepted into the position of manservant to Tony, a well-to-do Englishman with a fiancee, Susan. Barrett and Tony quickly form a solid relationship, which makes Barrett run into friction with Susan, who doesn’t like Barrett in the least. Things grow even more complicated when Barrett brings his sister Vera to live with them and work as the maid, as the triangle evolves into a quadrangle, and Tony’s relationship with Susan suffers as a result of the new female presence in the house. There’s an awful lot to like about this film, and its complicated tangle of relationships which tangle even more by the end. Barrett, an unassuming butler at the start, has a lot more to him than meets the eye, and watching his actions unfold and begin to change those around him is nothing short of watching perfection at work; the story, that is. There’s a lot more about the film that I’d love to talk about, but to discuss it any further would be inviting far too many spoilers, but rest assured; the whole film is much like the machinations of Barrett – unassuming at first, but grow increasingly engrossing by the end. It is all helped along so much by the daring and extremely professional cinematography, which makes frequent and excellent use of mirrors, and has some very impressive camera shots and movements, which emphasize the growing paranoia and sheltered lifestyle that Tony’s existence becomes.
The Servant is a very disconcerting film, that’s for sure. It’s psychological, mind-bending, and boasts some killer performances from its cast. My favorite aspect isn’t any one aspect; it’s how every aspect of this one blends so well together to create a product that, even with its pieces being exceptional themselves, is even more than the sum of its parts. It’s not a feel good film, I’ll mention that right off, but it is a spellbinding one, and dare I say, it never makes a false move, not once. I went into this not sure what to expect, and within the first few minutes my expectations had grown to expect a mere British film and nothing more, but I was blown away by this film, and I can certainly attest to its placement on the list. I found out afterwards that the film’s screenplay was written not only by a playwright, but by none other than future Nobel laureate Harold Pinter, which explains a hell of a lot towards the quality of this one. Watch this film; you won’t be disappointed.
Arbitrary Rating: 9/10